Valley Forge offers activities, history

VALLEY FORGE, Pa.— After nine years of working at the Valley Forge National Historical Park, park ranger Ajena Rogers still talks about her job with such infectious enthusiasm you would be hard pressed to believe she did not start working here last week.

However, the sheer volume of information she holds about the campgrounds that Gen. George Washington once called home during the winter of 1777 is a dead giveaway that she herself has been through many rough winters at Valley Forge.

“This is where a diverse group of people came together, overcame many hardships and really became a professional army,” Rogers said. “It’s a great story of perseverance and its inspiring to the young people that come here.”

National Memorial Arch at Valley Forge (Photo by Michael Viera).

The actual Valley Forge site is chock full of activities that not only inspires and informs children, but adults as well. Located on sprawling green space, where many people jog around on the miles of pathways, the park meticulously documents the six month stay of Gen. George Washington and his soldiers through various activities.

“There’s a lot going on in the park, especially during the winter season,” said John Golden, communications manager for the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The park rangers really do their best to talk to people and inform them about the historical significance.”

The park rangers, with their friendly and helpful demeanors are the best assets that Valley Forge has to offer its guests. Rangers give daily tours around the 3,600-acre park site on both bike and foot, taking guests around to more than 10 sites.

The park offers another option for those who cannot afford a bike tour with a tour guide in the form of free cell phone tours. Eleven sites on the park are equipped with a pre-recorded message which can be heard by dialing a phone number.

“The cell phone tour is great because, first of all its free, which happened since we received a grant from Lipton Tea,” Rogers said. “And second of all, there’s a better chance of visitors receiving information.”

Typical winter quarters for the Continental Army at Valley Forge (Photo by Michael Viera).

These sites include the National Memorial Arch, which is located atop a hill where deer frequent amongst park visitors. The monument is dedicated to the soldiers who lived in Valley Forge and is near some of the replicated log cabins where soldiers stayed during their intense training.

The most architecturally stunning structure the park has to offer is the Washington Memorial Chapel, which overlooks a large part of Valley Forge. The chapel, which has an active congregation, has a jarring presence in the area. Its imposing gray stone mass is vastly different from the brown and green nature space that surrounds it.

The nature element of Valley Forge is as important as the historical aspect. While it has historical significance, the park is also captivatingly beautiful and an ideal venue to see the changing of the seasons.

“The park is great because it blends destinations visitors, looking for the visitor’s center and outdoor visitors who like to see nature,” Rogers said. “This place should be respected for being such a great green space.”

Joggers and marathon runners can surely appreciate the park which boasts a variety of trails and paths that stretch out for miles. The only difference is that instead of running past children careening down a slide or flying off a swing set, you can witness children playing on historical 18th century cannons.

The openness of the area also allows for animals to use the area as well. A few years ago, Rogers remember a bear made it onto the main area where a runner ran into it.

“The jogger was running on the grounds well past our closing time of 10 p.m., but he came across a bear and immediately alerted the media,” Rogers said. “They caught the bear but it just goes to show how open the area is.”

Much of the open space hints at the metamorphosis process the park is currently experiencing with construction for a new Visitor’s Center underway as well as a renovation effort on Washington’s headquarters.

The current visitor’s center, which itself was remodeled in 1976, may be outdated but does not lack intimacy or information. Rangers often dress up as famous revolutionary war figures and perform presentations completely in character. Rogers herself does a presentation as Hannah Till, one of Washington’s cooks.

“The living history is definitely my favorite part of being a ranger here,” said Rogers, who has been a ranger at four other parks. “The park service gives us rangers a lot of flexibility as to what we get to present.”

Noah Lewis, who does a presentation as artilleryman Ned Hector, shows the same passion for first person presentations that Rogers does.

“It’s important for people to know that African-Americans like Ned Hector were a part of the revolutionary war,” Lewis said. “I really like seeing people’s reaction to the presentation, especially children.”

Gen. George Washington’s headquarters for the Continental Army at Valley Forge (Photo by Michael Viera).

The remodeling on Washington’s headquarters is scheduled to be finished in 2007, where rangers hope that the $3 admission fee will finally be waived. A portion of the headquarters is still open to the public and visitors can walk through rooms where the general once rested and ate meals.

The headquarters has a ranger, in full costume, ready to answer questions that park visitors may have and guide them around the small house.

Astrid Rodriguez, a native of Venezuela, has visited the park twice and clearly remembers the experience.

“I remember walking through Washington’s house and thinking, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’” Rodriguez said. “This generation is used to parks being about rides and roller coasters, but places like Valley Forge actually have some historical substance to them.”


If You Go

  • Parking is available free of charge next to the Visitor Center as well as at several important locations within the park.
  • Trolley tours occur three times a day and are $15.50 per adult ticket and $10 for children.
  • Every Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. a campfire is held where rangers speak about important events that occurred at Valley Forge.
  • Bike rental tours are available at a variety of prices. A family special package gives two adults and two children each a bike for two hours at a cost of $49.

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